The goal of every poker player should be to improve. It’s not really as important what level one is playing at today. What’s far more important is how one is playing tomorrow, then next week, then next month, and so on. Indeed, poker players who consistently improve their performance are those who end up surviving the longest. They usually end up winning tournaments and the most money.
Christopher Tryba is a case study in self-improvement. This year alone, he has already cashed four times. His first cash was 16th place at the Southern Poker Championship in Biloxi, MS, followed by an eighth-place finish a week later at the same tournament. The following month, Tryba took third place at the LA Poker Classic. And now in March, he won a World Series of Poker Circuit gold ring, his first ever, after playing several years in the series. Tryba triumphed in the most recent WSOP Circuit event, held at the Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort, near San Diego.
The $400 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament attracted 153 entries, generating $59,364 in prize money. The top 18 finishers collected payouts. All the action took place over a two-day period inside Rincon Pavilion Showroom.
After 144 players were eliminated on day one, nine survivors took their seats at the finale table. John “All-In Finn” Finnigan, making his second final table appearance at this year’s Rincon series, began play as the chip leader. But Las Vegas poker pro Christopher Tryba was close on his heels and ended up defeating rival Finnigan in a heads-up showdown. The top nine finishers were as follows:
9th Place – Josh Harshbarger did not last long. He was severely short stacked and hoped to double up and jump back into contention. But Harshbarger ended up losing to John Leo’s full house. The Las Vegas poker player earned a payout totaling $1,781.
8th Place – Tony Vu, from Dallas, was the next tournament casualty. He moved all-in with K-Q and was called by Habib Khanis, holding A-5. The ace-high held up, which meant an eighth-place finish for Vu – which paid $2,375.
7th Place – A short time later, Habib Khanis went from the terminator to the terminated. He was all-in with pocket kings and looked to be in great position to move up close to the chip lead. But he was called by Chris Tryba, holding A-10. The final board was a complete nightmare for Khanis -- K-5-2-3-4. Tryba’s ace played which made for a straight, knocking out Khanis. The San Diego poker player received $2,968 in prize money.
6th Place – David “Four Racks” Luttbeg went to “No Racks” when he moved all-in with a pair of what turned to be not-so-lucky sevens. “Cowboy” woke up in the blind with pocket aces and re-raised all-in. Luttbeg, drawing slim, failed to catch his two outer, which meant a sixth-place finish. Luttbeg, who has made over 30 final table appearances at various tournaments (including the Ultimate Poker Challenge, World Poker Tour, and others including WSOP Circuit events) was paid $3,562 for sixth place.
5th Place – A short time later, Lance Oliver (holding J-J) moved all-in with a re-raise from the small blind. Chris Tryba called and tabled A-10. An ace on the turn knocked out Oliver, who ended up in fifth place. The poker pro from Roseville, CA earned $4,155
4th Place – The foursome battled back and forth more than an hour before the next elimination. That came when John “Cowboy” Land was low on chips and called from the blind with a weak hand. “All-In Finn” Finnigan ended up making aces-full-of-queens, which put “Cowboy” out to pasture. The Dallas business owner and poker player collected $4,987 for fourth place.
3rd Place – Jon Leo was knocked out in third place when he lost a battle of the blinds. Leo re-raised all-in from the big blind with Q-J and “All-In Finnigan,” who had his opponent covered in chips, called with K-10. the final board showed 10-7-2-9-10, giving Finnigan trip tens. Meanwhile, the retired local recreational poker player from San Diego, collected $5,936 for third place.
2nd Place – When heads-up play began, “All-In Finn” Finnigan and Christopher Tryba were just about dead even in chips. The duo waltzed back and forth across the felt for about 15 minutes, during which Tryba seized the chip lead. Then, the biggest hand of the tournament ultimately decided the outcome in Tryba’s favor.
On what turned out to be the tournament’s final hand, Tryba initially made a small pre-flop raise, and Finnigan called. The flop came A-3-2, with all clubs. Tryba flopped the stone-cold nuts, holding the K-7 of clubs. The sneaky Tryba gave his opponent a free card. When another club fell on the turn (now showing four clubs on baord), Finnigan moved all-in holding the jack of clubs. Tryba called and let out a joyous, “oh, yeah!” Both players held a flush, but Tryba had the better hand with the king of clubs. That meant Finnigan came up just short again in his quest for victory, after finishing second in a Rincon event held four days ago.
The Portland-based small business owner could be quite proud of what was his second runner-up finish. Indeed, if there was an award for “Best All-Around Player” for this tournament series, Finnigan would clearly be in the lead. “All-In Finn” collected another nice paycheck, this time for $9,498.
1st Place – The winner was Christopher Tryba. He won $14,844 and his first WSOP Circuit gold ring. The 41-year-old pro has now cashed 45 times at major events, all since 2003. This marks his third major victory. Tryba’s previous wins came at the Binion’s Poker Classic and the Scotty Nguyen Poker Challenge, both which came last year.
With eight events now completed at Harrah’s Rincon, the tournament has now attracted more than 3,500 total entries and has awarded in excess of $800,000 in total prize money. Still to come are six more gold ring events and three nightly “Daily Double” tournaments which begin at 4 pm. The WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s Rincon continues through April 1st.